Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

5:33 PM

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert | Rating:  ★★★★☆

“Everyone is supposed to be a combination of nature and nurture, their true selves shaped by years of friends and fights and parents and dreams and things you did too young and things you overheard that you shouldn’t have and secrets you kept or couldn’t and regrets and victories and quiet prides, all the packed-together detritus that becomes what you call your life.” 

Wow, this book was breath-taking and full of so much darkness and whimsy. Going into The Hazel Wood was one of those blind experiences. I'd heard good and bad things about the book, virtually no inbetweens. The hype was there and so, too, was the negativity. But, I managed to avoid actual spoilers and even in depth explanations of what its plot actually was. I think this fact may be what made the contents of The Hazel Wood so effective and absorbing--me, going into it with so little knowledge as to what it was truly about.

What's certain is that Melissa Albert crafted something so darkly fascinating, it appealed to all of my senses and hit so many of the right marks. I love stories like this, so it's only natural that I was a fan of Albert's mysterious fairy-tale world. I can think of two recent releases that had the same ambition and effects on readers: Splintered by A.G. Howard and Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I believe that fans of the two previously mentioned series will flock to The Hazel Wood, as it features the same sort of darkness tangled with whimsical fantasy.

This isn't to say that it's without flaws or will without a doubt be for everyone. As always, literature is art and art is subjective to the person's preference. And my preference lay in the many marks that The Hazel Wood hit.

I liked the way the book made me feel. Like I was part of some sort of fairy-tale experience. Albert is vivid in her descriptions and the world she creates is full of so much mystery, I couldn't help but to fall in love with it. The Hazel Wood is not fairy-tale like in the vein of Disney stories, but in the fairy-tales that those tales were based upon.

There was something striking about the way that the story unfolded. As we explored more of the world it is set in, we realized that many of the stories within the story weren't merely stories--they were someone else's realities.

The way that Albert ties these moments in with our own modern world is seamless and gorgeous. I felt a few (possibly unintentional) nods to ABC's hit television series Once Upon a Time throughout the novel and I really enjoyed it! I found so many of the characters to be intriguing and mysteries--I adored Alice, was conflicted and attached by/to Ella and Ellery was just fascinating.

Not to mention the fairy-tale like world that we come across in Hinterland. Wow!

What really hooked me, was simple. A creepy story within the story: "When Alice was born, her eyes were black from end to end, and the midwife didn't stay long enough to wash her." There was this chill that took over my body when I read that and I'm not altogether certain what it was about this line that captivated me, but I'm glad it did.

The Hazel Wood was a blast from start to finish and caused a massive book hangover after I read it. I need a sequel, like, now. Especially after the conclusion and all the revelations we reached by the last chapter. I'm so hooked!

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